The comedian and producer talks sequels, 22 Jump Street and his shift to serious films
Given that 21 Jump Street grossed over $200 million worldwide, a sequel to the smash comedy would seem like a no-brainer. But its maker, still took some persuading. “I’ve deliberately never done a sequel before to any of the movies I’ve been in,” says Jonah Hill. The 30-year-old star of Superbad and The Wolf of Wall Street says, “Because I didn’t think they could ever be funnier than the original.” However, in 22 Jump Street, the innovative comedy has hapless undercover cops Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) returning to college, after barely surviving high school — the very notion of mocking the whole ‘lame’ idea of sequels was cleverly pre-built into the franchise. In a recent interview with Conan O’Brien, Tatum revealed he had a bet with Hill before the release of 21 Jump Street. While Tatum felt that the film would do over $35 million, Hill said that if it did, he would kiss the tip of Tatum’s p***s — “over the boxers,” he specified. Though the film opened with over $35 million, Hill still hasn’t finished the task. More from him:
Laughing at yourself
“Jump Street movies work because of their self-awareness and making fun of themselves. With this one, right from the get go, we wanted to make fun of ourselves and the whole idea of doing a sequel: how sequels are always just worse and more expensive and how they try to recapture a magic that is just impossible to recapture.” Pressure was on to repeat that success — something that Hill’s co-written script has a lot of fun with. “Do exactly the same as the last time and everyone’s happy!” Nick Offerman’s deputy chief Hardy instructs Schmidt and Jenko before he sends them back to bust yet another student drug ring. Nothing stays ‘exactly’ the same, including the fact that the ‘boys’ this time round now look even less like they could pass for 19-year-olds.
Art of bromance
In 22 Jump Street, the tables are turned and Jenko gets to be Mr Popular, becoming a star football player, whilst Schmidt is socially side-lined. But despite the toll this takes on their characters’ ‘bromance’, the buddy chemistry between the two leads remains irresistible. “We are genuinely friends in real life,” says Hill of him and Tatum. “A big part of making a sequel was wanting to make another film together.” And, though equally sought after as actors, their friendship is entirely non-competitive. “That is kind of the great thing about our relationship,” enthuses Hill, “the desire to help the other one out and to really support one another as opposed to compete.” This extends to stuff like stunts. “Channing is very passionate about doing his own stunts,” says Hill admiringly. Whereas Hill is happy to take a back seat. “I am always up for trying stuff,” he says, “but if there is a chance that I could get seriously hurt I am not the kind of person that would fight you on that.”
Keeping it real
Recently, Hill has made a conscious move away from comedy towards more serious dramas, starting with Cyrus and eventually leading him to Oscar-nominated performances in the likes of Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as Django Unchained. Hill states, “I’ve worked with some of the great directors, like Scorsese and Bennett Miller, as well as a lot of comedy directors, and they have pretty much all encouraged people to explore and improvise. I think that it is a wonderful way to get even more truthful in a specific moment, whether it is comedy or drama.” Remarkably adept at flipping between these genres, Hill does not consider one form higher than the other. As he puts it, “Turning the TV series into a movie was my idea. I would say I am pretty much one of the main architects of the whole franchise”. There are “no plans as of now” for a 23 Jump Street, despite playful hints.
The film is scheduled to release today.